Louisiana probes source of methane cloud spotted near pipelines

Josh Saul 6/6/2022

(Bloomberg) — Louisiana is investigating the source of a cloud of methane that was spotted from space near multiple natural gas pipelines.

The state began its probe after Bloomberg News contacted the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources about a concentration of the planet-warming gas detected May 28 by a European Space Agency satellite. The plume had an emissions rate of 44 tons of methane an hour and was the most severe detected in the US since March 19, according to an analysis of the data by Kayrros SAS.

If the release lasted an hour at the rate estimated by the geoanalytics firm, it would have roughly the same short-term impact as the annual emissions from about 800 US cars. A second plume identified the same day by the satellite that was roughly 25 miles (40 km) southwest of the original release didn’t have enough information for Kayrros to estimate its emissions rate. 

Halting methane releases from fossil fuel operations is one of the most important steps that can be taken to slow global warming. Venting and non-emergency flaring of methane from oil and gas should be significantly reduced or eliminated to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the International Energy Agency. 

The release under investigation likely originated within six miles of gas pipelines owned by Kinder Morgan Inc. and Boardwalk Pipelines LP and about eight miles from an Energy Transfer pipeline, according to Kayrros. None of the three operators contacted by Bloomberg said they were responsible. Louisiana’s Department of Natural Resources said it was first made aware of the methane cloud by Bloomberg.

“We are currently trying to see if there are any potential sources (wells or pipelines) that look to be close enough to have caused such a release,” Patrick Courreges, a representative for the state department, said in an email Friday. He said the agency is reaching out to the nearby operators and its field agents are looking for any physical evidence, such as a ruptured pipeline or disturbed ground.

The plume over Louisiana wasn’t caused by Kinder Morgan’s Midcontinent Express Pipeline, a company representative said. A Boardwalk spokesperson said its Gulf South pipeline didn’t have any leaks or maintenance work that could have caused the cloud. An Energy Transfer representative said there’s no indication the release is related to its pipeline.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said its air assessment team hasn’t seen evidence of the release.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration didn’t receive any reports of a release from pipeline operators in the area, a representative said in an email. The agency began enforcing a requirement that pipeline operators take steps to minimize emissions this year, the representative added. 

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if the rate is accurate, one would think it would t be difficult to track a flow ~2100 mmcf/hr. (Normalized to 14.7# @ 60°F and using 0.042 lb/cf)


I'm unsure there is any specific volume details at this time.  Hopefully an investigation will provide the answers. The import for me is that methane monitoring is improving and making it plain that emissions have been drastically under estimated.  For natural gas to be the blue bridge to a greener energy future that we all envisioned in the early years of the Haynesville Play, the industry has to get a handle on emissions.  Its a no brainer to save the molecules for beneficialr use than to have them contribute to climate changes that threaten our state and the world.  Louisiana needs natural gas and the associated jobs and the best way to ensure both for the future is to get serious about monitoring emissions and requiring companies that they be addressed.  Doing so is not anti-industry, it is pro-industry.  And common sense.

Getting a grip on fugitive emissions is definitely a good thing all the way around.  You can't sell it if your just chunking it overboard.

"if you can't measure it, you can't manage it."  I tend to think of it as dollars escaping into the atmosphere.  A sentiment shared by all my clients.  Someone help me here please.  44 tons emitted in a hour equals how many mcf?  And then that number of mcfs at $8 per each.  Keep in mind this is one or several sources in close proximity for just one hour.  If a satellite monitored the whole state, we would likely be aghast at the waste and mineral lessors would be up in arms.  The state needs its on own monitoring system and regulations that require permanent onsite monitors for every part of the supply chain that is a point where methane can leak.  And speaking of wasting natural resources, that is job number one for the Department of Natural Resources/Office of Conservation.  To conserve is to save.

1 ton of oil equivalent (59°F) to cubic feet of natural gas = 39,656.67 cu ft N.G. 2 tons of oil equivalent to cubic feet of natural gas = 79,313.34 cu ft N.G. 3 tons of oil equivalent to cubic feet of natural gas = 118,970.00 cu ft N.G.

44 tons = 1,744,893.48cf

1,744,893.48 cf /1000 = 1,744.89 mcf

1,745 mcf @ 8.00/mcf = $13,960/hr -- $335,040/day

Assuming I got my decimals in the correct place.

I came up with 1,668 mcf with that other formula


Volume is calculated off of "apparent tons per hour" cited in the OP.  If the emissions are anywhere near that rate, it's more than a incidental methane release from a cow pasture.  At ESA's estimated rate, it has to be a larger gathering or a transportation source.  At constant rate that would approach 50mmcfd, 1.5 BCF/mo.  Somebody's going to miss that.

total gas in SCF = (lbs natural gas)*(379.3 SCF/lb-mole)÷(MW of gas in lbs/lb-mole)

Thanks for the responses.  I hope that everyone with a stake in Louisiana natural gas production can get behind a state program that monitors emissions and includes regulations that require quick responses to all significant emissions.  The debate needs to start now and include all stakeholders.  The industry needs to cooperate.


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